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Big Red opens NCAC crossover series with win

Andrew Bruss
Andrew Bruss

GRANVILLE, Ohio -- A five-run eighth inning helped send the 24th-ranked Denison baseball team to a 7-2 victory over Allegheny in the opening game of North Coast Athletic Conference Crossover Series on Saturday afternoon. The two teams started the second game of the scheduled doubleheader, but constant rain forced the game to be suspended until Sunday.

The Big Red struck first in the second inning. Freshman Brian McAuliffe opened the bottom half of the frame with a base hit to left. After going first to third on a pair of wild pitches, the rookie first baseman came round to score on a ground out to short by Noah Hahn. Senior Phil Papaioannou followed with a one-out single to center. Papaioannou stole second to move into scoring position, allowing classmate Tucker Davison to drive him in with a base hit through the right side.

The lead helped DU starter Perley Provost find his grove as he faced the minimum in the next five innings. The only runner to reach base was thrown out try to swipe second by Papaioannou.

Allegheny managed to get their offense going in the eighth. With two on and two out, a move to bring in pinch hitter Dan Bonnett trigged a pitching change from Mike Deegan. The Big Red skipper decided to lift Provost and bring in junior Andrew Bruss. Pinch hitter Shea Beaumont eventually tied the game with a two-run single up the middle. Bruss rebounded to get Ethan Pawlak to fly out to Tanner Johnson in center.

Denison responded in the home half of the eighth with five runs on the strength of six hits. McAuliffe broke the tie with a single down the right line that scored Johnson. Two batters later, Davison knocked in McAuliffe with a single before a two-run double by Evan Flax off new pitcher Cy Perry pushed the Big Red lead to 6-2. Nick Pettigrew capped off the offensive surge with a single up the middle that drove home Flax.

In the ninth, senior Matthew Zmuda took the hill looking to close out the win. Zmuda opened the frame with a three-pitch strikeout before getting Jacob Shick to fly out to center. Brandon Pouch did single with two outs, but a ground ball to short brought the game to an end.

Papaioannou and Flax both went 3-for-4 on the day. Papaioannou scored twice and swiped a bag, while Flax legged out two doubles, drove in a pair and scored another run. Davison also had two hits, two RBIs and a run, while McAuliffe finished with two hits, two runs and an RBI. Jack Blanchard, Johnson and Pettigrew also recorded a stolen base in the win. Bruss improved to 5-0 on the year after scattering two hits in a just one third of an inning of work.

Denison (28-9, 12-5 NCAC) and Allegheny (22-16, 7-10 NCAC) will resume game two of their crossover series on Sunday at 11 a.m. The game was halted in the top of the fifth inning with the Gators leading 3-0. The third and final game of the series will take place roughly 30 minutes after the completion of game two.